Wednesday, March 5, 2008


You could not understand how painful it was with these mouth ulcers.

They gave me bad breath and to hasten recovery my mouth had to be washed daily. During these washings the mucous membrane was sometimes stripped off together with some specks of blood clots.

The procedure was so painful that I could not bear to stay still and watch while the assistant nurses were busy pulling away strands of dead tissues which were formerly a part of me.

The process normally made me bleed profusely and it took some time for the bleeding to stop completely. My lips became swollen and I felt like a losing heavyweight boxer after completing a 15-round bout.

The third side effect was to greatly increase my appetite such that, believe it or not, I finished two plates of chicken rice in one go - and was still asking for more afterwards.

Aboh had to work overtime buying me all sorts of food. Soon I grew pretty fat and double-chinned. I became a plump, round-faced kid instead of a skinny one. The transformation was so great that, on one occassio, my aunties coould not recognise me.

Life in the ward was getting more interesting especially when I was physically well. The moments I disliked most were the treatment sessions, when they brought me to the treatment room for taking blood sample, resetting my intravenous set and worst still for spinal tap and bone marrow biopsy.

Every patient, even a three-month-old baby, would cry when brought into the room. It was a torture chamber for us.

Mondays and Thursdays were the two days we loathed. One these two days our arms, hands and even our fingers were pricked to obtain enough blood for all sorts of tests. You could hear all types of screams if you happened to pass by the room.

I usually screamed and cried every time my hand was pricked, but despite the ear-piercing cry, I rarely struggled or kicked at the doctors while they were doing their jobs. In this aspect I agreed with Aboh who repeatedly told me that 'we had to be cruel to be kind' in treating such a dreaded disease as leukemia.

After completing my chemotherapy, I had to undergo radiotherapy. Since radiotherapy sessions were on alternate days and each normally took only three minutes, DR Raja Khuzaiah allowed us to stay outside the ward.

Aboh was very pleased on hearing this for now he had solved one problem that had been worrying him all along - finding someone to look after Ma during her pregancy.

Looking back to the days when I was in critical condition, I knew that Aboh had gone all out to be by my side and at the same time look after Ma's welfare.

While undergoing radiotherapy we stayed at my relative's house in Selayang. All in all, I went through ten radiotherapy sessions.

The first night at Selayang Ma began to have her labour pains. Without delay Aboh, Ma and I rushed to the Maternity Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

I was left alone in the car, for as you all knew, children under 12 were not allowed into the ward. I could not describe how frightened I was being left all alone in the car. Mind you, it was well past midnight then. Aboh was running up and down, between delivery room and the car to see that the two of us were safe.

While with me, Aboh coaxed me into staying in the car by saying that we sometimes had to scarifice for Ma. I understood and told him, between sobs, that it was all right. I would be brave for her.

At around 12.30 am Ma delivered a baby boy, Khairul Syazwan. How happy I was when Aboh broke the news to me.

At about two in the morning we left for Selayang since I had to undergo my first radiotherapy session the next morning.

After the session we left for Sungai Siput, Perak. I was glad that after three and a half months in the hospital, I could taste, once again, the fresh air of the farm that I loved.

My health was still not so good. I still felt weak, tired and sad. Before leaving the hospital I was supplied with a bottle of 6-MP tablets and made to understand that I would be hooked to them for 2 and a half years.

I had to be checked at KLGH every two weeks. I was still pale. They warded me everytime I came for my forthnightly check-up. My hemoglobin level was always low and I had to be given blood transfusion. Only when the hemoglobin level was over 10 and there were no more fever I would be allowed to go home.

The check-ups continue for another three months. When my hemoglobin level was constantly high again I was told to come once a month. Oh, what a relief! But Dr Jeny would always advise me to come back to the ward if I were to have fever or any other signs of the disease.

FRom the middle of January 1991 onwards, my health was much better. I was no longer pale and my hair started to regrow. Soon I had a fine head of hair. It was a lovely feeling to have hair again.

So many people were startled to see the change in me. They all said that I had blood again and that I had become a handsome boy once more. Yes, of course I was happy, but deep inside I was not that sure.

Through my discussions with Aboh I sensed that he still had doubts about my condition. He always encouraged me to be brave and positive. After having passed critical times I began to have confidence in getting well.

Aboh and Ma were surprised to see me swallowing the bitter prednisolone tablets without being forced to as was formerly the case. I just wanted to get well, that was all there was to it. There was no other way except to follow the doctor's orders.

So great was my enthusiasm for recovery that one day Aboh jokingly said that it was better not to go to the clinic anymore for I was well and no longer needed those painful procedures and botter drugs. I rejected his suggestion and insisted that I should not miss the check-ups, not for anything.

During my check-ups I received some sad news - my favourite Dr Jenny was going away. As far as I coyld remember no doctor could come close to her, in terms of dedication, caring and most important of all, as a friend to the many leukemia patients.

I also saw that a number of my ward companuions had passed away, one by one, due to the illness. Nobody could read my mind and tell how frightened I was, thinking about it.

To be continued

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